Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish officials have voiced regret over France’s rejection of the EU constitution on Sunday (29 May). While insisting they do not expect the result to affect their countries’ EU bids, they called for stronger efforts towards meeting all membership requirements.
A “no” vote would mean EU candidates will “have to be far more rigorous in complying with the conditions set for our accession to the EU,” Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu told journalists during the vote. Hours later, it became clear that an estimated 55 per cent of those Frenchmen who went to the polls rejected the EU constitution. Turnout was approximately 70 per cent.
Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to join the EU on 1 January 2007. They still need to fulfil a number of commitments to avoid the activation of safeguard clauses in their accession treaty that could delay either country’s entry by one year.
“When Romania meets the commitments it made, there will surely be no hurdles to its joining on 1 January 2007,” the British daily The Guardian quoted Tariceanu as saying after the results were in. He added that the French referendum would have “no influence, practically, on Romania’s EU integration”.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy made a similar statement Monday, stressing that EU integration was a long-term strategic process that could not be blocked by a single referendum.
The EC is due to publish reports this autumn on Bulgaria and Romania’s progress in meeting membership requirements.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also sought to downplay the effect of the French “no” vote on his country’s EU bid. Turkey is scheduled to begin its accession negotiations on 3 October, a process expected to last at least a decade.
“This result is something which concerns the French public … not Turkey,” Reuters quoted Gul as telling the Anadolu news agency. “The start of negotiations is in our hands … What would prevent Turkey from starting EU negotiations is doing things contrary to EU standards or not fulfilling the things it has promised to do,” the minister said.
Last week, the European Commission said that neither a government change in Germany nor a negative vote in the French and Dutch referenda would affect the EU enlargement schedule.
“There is no condition [for Turkey] other than the harmonisation protocol and legal reforms,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn’s spokeswoman, Krisztina Nagy stressed.
The green light EU leaders gave to Turkey’s entry talks in December and the accession treaty the 25-nation bloc signed with Bulgaria and Romania last month are considered irreversible decisions.
“The EU has made its decision,” Gul said Sunday. “In the EU, governments are always changing. Parties come and parties go. None of this affects us. We have to look to ourselves. We have to work to implement EU standards in a decisive way,” he added.